María Barrera worked as an activist and organizer for 10 years, now she uses acupuncture to continue inspiring people to keep going, but without affecting their health.

María E. Barrera became involved in the world of activism from a young age. Her undocumented status motivated her to fight for the educational and human rights of immigrant youth.

Little did he imagine at that time that years later he would continue to help his community but from another angle; promoting the well-being of body, soul and spirit.

María, 35, is the founder of the Athena Acupuncture and Wellness Center located in the city of Whittier.

The native of Jalisco, Mexico, emigrated to the United States with her family at age 5 and at age 17 she was already a student activist. Thus he continued until university.

After graduating from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) with a degree in Political Science in 2006, Maria became an undocumented student organizer for a pro-immigrant organization in Los Angeles.

“When I was leading the circles (of conversation) that emotion always came out, there was always the sadness of being undocumented, the limits, the risks,” said María. “Then when I spoke with them I realized that it was easy for me. That I could make others feel good. ”

“My energy was much less than zero. They were 10 years of activism and I began to feel that my body and my emotions were low, ”said Maria Barrera from her Athena Acupuncture & Wellness Center business in Whittier. (Aurelia Ventura / The Opinion)

Making changes in your life

However, advocacy on social issues, the organization of protests and pro-immigrant events took up much of their time; this prevented Maria from thinking that something very important in the movement was needed; Personal health

After six years of participating as a non-stop activist, Maria began to feel exhausted.

“My energy was much less than zero. They were 10 years of activism and I began to feel that my body and my emotions were low, ”said Maria.

It was for this reason and with great regret, but aware of his decisions, Maria left her job as an organizer and decided to take new paths.

Shortly after, the young woman decided to study a Master of Traditional Chinese Medicine at the University of Southern California University of Health Sciences.

“I began to feel interest in acupuncture. I learned that if you have a lot of action, there must be a balance with the rest, ”said María, who is now an acupuncturist.

This is something that for some time he had forgotten in his eagerness to help his community.

In college he learned more about traditional Chinese medicine that includes acupuncture, herbs, massage, nutrition and healing movement.

Fighting from another front

Considering that acupuncture is part of a system of traditional Chinese medicine for more than 5,000 years, Maria explained that her wellness center is like being between a spa and a doctor.

“When you come here you can relax, you have aromatherapy, a salt lamp, relaxing noise and a meditation room,” said Maria, who eventually performs acupuncture or cupping sessions.

The acupuncturist said that once patients receive the sessions, they also have the option of obtaining alternative medicines made from herbs.

"I mainly offer the capsules because sometimes people are in a hurry and do not have time to make the powder in a liquid," said Maria, who works with an allopathic doctor and a psychiatrist for certain cases.

Maria said that acupuncture is an alternative for people with headache, back, knees, shoulders, stress, diabetes and irregular menstruation.

“I also have a specialty to treat children, mainly for those who are fighting cancer or more serious problems,” said Maria.

The best thing about this method of alternative medicine, says María, is that during these visits the patient can receive spiritual, physical, nutritional and emotional therapy healing.

María Barrera is the owner of Athena Acupuncture & Wellness Center, in the city of Whittier. (Aurelia Ventura / The Opinion)

Starting your business

Maria recognizes that starting a business on her own was very motivating.

“I have the entrepreneurial spirit and bigger goals. I wanted a business to leave something solid for my daughter, ”said Maria, who is married and has a 5-year-old daughter. "Now I feel that I can also be an example to follow as an immigrant, because we always want to leave a legacy of wealth and success."

However, it has been through her own personal success that Maria feels renewed to return to the social movement, but from another angle. She is offering her personal and spiritual healing services in community organizations.

“I see that this is the manifestation of all the bridges that I have created in my life, of all my passions and my specialties,” said Maria. "I have been a champion for immigrant rights and now I am a champion for healing and health and everything is connected."

Maria said that one of her main approaches now is to be the voice of conscience. He wants to have the ability to tell people that they have the right to take care of themselves, to say no and rest, to preserve themselves.

"Because now the world is telling you do more, work more and of course it is true, but there are many times where we give more and do not have the legal profession to say, 'Right now I can not, I need to take care of myself,'" he said Mary.

This is the change that Maria hopes to make in her patients and in the community she visits. She tries to change the culture not only in social movements, but within the family to create support and have self healing.

“Everything is connected to our health. Everything starts, works and ends with our health. ”

Athena Acupuncture and Wellness Center had its official opening on Thursday, September 19. To learn more about their services visit:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here